Ask Gary: Have the Rays reinvented the wheel?

by Gary Shelton on March 10, 2018 · 4 comments

in Baseball, general, Tampa Bay Lightning, Tampa Bay Rays

Each week, the readers take over and play Ask Gary. They send in a question, or a couple, on Thursday night or Friday morning and we all talk about the world of sports. Think of it as a radio show where you don't have to be on hold. Join us and ask a question, make a comment or be funny. Send the questions to

Saturday, 4 a.m.

What is your opinion of the Rays' starting pitching rotation plans for the 2018 season - 4 starters and then a smorgasbord of relievers for every fifth game?
Scott Myers
I think it can work for the short-term. Over the long haul, I don't believe in it.
Across baseball, a lot of teams (the Rangers) are looking to go to six-man rotations to keep their pitchers healthier. Meanwhile, the Rays are going to invent the wheel with a bunch of guys who won five games each last year. I think it's inviting arm trouble and fatigue. Today's pitchers are built to throw every five days.
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I know the Rays think they're still smarter than everyone. But is a team that finished under .500 the team to alter the trend in pitching? Really?
I suspect that most of the teams that are good will stay with five starters. I think, eventually, when the games start to stack up a bit, the Rays will get there, too. And they will say that was their plan all along.
If you were with an NFL team, and could ask one question at the combine of the players your team was interviewing, what would you ask?

Cecil DeBald

I would ask a player his views of women in general and domestic violence in particular. I know a lot of players grew up in households where it was common, and as such, may have been desensitized to it.

I would ask about hunger, and about what they thought separated great players from ordinary players.

I would ask about their attitudes toward their teammates, their coaches, their public. In other words, I would try to discern whether players were divas who think they live above everyone else, or if they were normal guys who happened to be good at football.

Of course, players lie. So I'd still do my background searches. I still do my coaches' interviews. I'd still ask my scouts what they're hearing because draft picks are multi-million dollar investments.

In the end, everything is a sliding scale. You don't ask a fierce pass rusher to be a Boy Scout. But you do want him to be grounded and reasonable, or it's going to come back to bite you.

Then I'd ask this: Can you get to the quarterback?

I know the Rays are rebuilding, but couldn’t they at least have kept Evan Longoria and made him a career franchise player?

Peter Kerasotis

They could have. And probably, they should have.

But the Rays are a team that values little more than a nickel, unless it's a dime. They are driven by profits, and the raw data was this: As a player, Evan Longoria had reached the age where the Rays no longer thought he was worth his pay. Sentimentality costs money. So they let him, and his history, go.

That's hardly new anymore. Few players are lifers with their baseball teams these days. But on a team that needs a face, that needs something for the fans to believe in, I thought Longoria might be different.

Longoria is going to make $13.5 million this year. That's a huge hunk of the Rays' payroll, and he wasn't offering to take a cut to stay (not that it would have been legal).

To sum up: The Rays put a price on fan loyalty, but it's a lot less than $13.5 million. They won't draw that many fewer fans with another guy at third. It's a shame, but really, it makes perfect sense for a team that can squeeze pennies so hard that Lincoln cries.

(Peter is a long-time Florida sports columnist, a buddy of mine, and the author of several books. His latest is Felipe Alou My Baseball Journey is scheduled to be released on April 1. He'd grin if you bought one.)

I've noticed a weird thing about sports fans, those who comment in blogs and such, anyway.They don't like the owners who take advantage of the love of a sport to get taxpayer-funded stadiums and such, who don't spend to bring a winner to the fans, who only care about money in their pocket. And yet, when it comes to the player compensation the same fans seem to think those same owners should pay less (become richer) and players -- the same players they supposedly cheer for on the field -- should shut up and consider themselves lucky to be paid money to play a game. Any theories about why fans side with owners when it comes to player compensation?

Cecil DeBald

Cecil, we live in a world of negatives. Players have so many statistics, and fans often ignore everything but the worst ones. Most players are flawed.

So when a fan is criticizing, say, Gerald McCoy, it's easy to look at his salary and believe he's overpaid. Never mind his Pro Bowls, never mind his years being considered one of the best defensive tackles in the league. He hasn't won playoff games, so it's easy to suggest his pay is inflated. Never mind that owners own their own ATMs.

Take Jameis Winston. The Bucs will extend his contract next year, but some fans will talk instead about his turnovers and his oddness on the sideline and the unsavory accusations he's faced.

Ask yourself this: In the court of public opinion, who isn't overpaid? Tom Brady? Who else?

I thought the best bargain in history was Michael Jordan, because when he was on his game, no one ever talked about how much money he made. Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Walter Payton, Lawrence Taylor.

Remember, it hasn't been that long since Pete Rose wanted to be the first singles hitter to make $100,000. The groundskeeper makes that much these days.

I think a lot of fans still live under the fallacy that if salaries are cut by three fourths, ticket prices will be, too. But that ship has sailed. Players make Monopoly money. You can work yourself into a fine depression by thinking too much about how much they are paid for a single game.

But these days, they're movie stars and recording artists. Athletes make a boatload of money, and usually, they buy the boat, too.

Do you think the Lightning should have rested Vasilevskiy more than they have?

Jim Willson

Yes, I do. Now, I'm a hypocrite, because I love when he's in the lineup, and I love watching his win total mount. But the Bolts have gone past their final judgment being how they do in the regular season; we'll remember this year, good or bad, as how the playoffs go.

In his first full season as a starter, I wonder if the Bolts shouldn't have given Vasilevskiy a night off here and there. I think he's young enough, and he's a good enough athlete. But there is a load that comes with a young player mentally. He hasn't been as sharp lately, has he?

Now, I do like the fact that Vasilevskiy wants to play all of these games. It's good that he's that competitive. But if he falters in the playoffs, all of us will wonder if the team simply put too much of a. burden on him.

In athletes, the good guys always want to play. But it's up to the coach to manage that. Jon Cooper has now had two goalies win 40 games a year. That's a lot.

Do think that major sports events and food just go together, and know you're a gourmet, Gary, so what are your favorite eats and/or drinks for these sporting events:

NCAA Basketball Men's Championship Game
Final Round of the Masters
Kentucky Derby
Men's & Women'ss Final Wimbleton
Stanley Cup
World Series
NCAA Football Championship Game

Cecil DeBald

So do gourmets eat bacon cheeseburgers while they type?

I'll be honest. For most of these events, I've been in press boxes eating whatever the fare was. These days, when I watch at home, I'll just have a sandwich out of the fridge. I usually watch alone, and I don't use it as an excuse to eat whatever I want.

At the Masters, they serve a lot of food these days. But since Bobby Jones was hitting his niblick, they've served pimento cheese sandwiches and chocolate milk in the press box. On the final Sunday, I usually try to have that.

At Wimbledon, I always tried the strawberries and cream at least once. Otherwise, it's whatever the cafeteria was serving. Bud Collins used to take us to an Italian restaurant. Vijay Amritraj, the old Indian player, once took a bunch of for Indian food

At the Super Bowl, I liked the hot dogs over the cold sandwiches.

During the week, there are parties and some sportswriter will make a reservation for 20, and you eat there. I eat with Mike Vacarro, Joe Posnanski, Les Carpenter and that crowd at least once a week and we solve the world's problems. (And pronounce who are the good guys from the bad).

At the Stanley Cup, you're generally on your own. Chicken nuggets, maybe.

At the Olympics, you're scrambling to find something. Tom Archdeacon and I, in Turin, found a local Italian restaurant, and we went there every night. At the end of the Games, they gave us inscribed books. Usually, though, you eat what you can, and the last week of the Games, you start fantasizing about what you're going to eat when you get home.

But you don't cover this things for the food. You cover them because, for a few days, they are the pulse of American sports.

Are the Glazers as committed now as they were in the 90s in bringing a championship team to the TB area?

Rick Martin
I don't know if they're as committed as in those days, but I think they're committed.
To me, you judge an owner largely by the money he spends that he doesn't have to. In the heyday of the Bucs, they spent money on quarterback Brad Johnson when some clubs would have just stuck with Shaun King. They spent money on Simeon Rice when the pass rush was pretty good. And they spent a lot of money on Jon Gruden when many were pleased with Tony Dungy.
These days, the owners spent money on DeSean Jackson and Chris Baker (who flopped). I would have held off of Baker and instead gone after Calais Campbell, and they would have gotten more bang for the bucks.
The area where I wonder about the Bucs is that they've never had a general in charge, like Bill Parcells with Dallas or Tom Coughlin with Jacksonville. Jason Licht has had some good finds, but he's missed some, too. Why not add another voice to the discussion.
I know this: After a while, you get tired of blaming the quarterback and the coach and the general manager. Eventually, people are going to look the owner's box and wonder why no one is insisting this team make the post-season.




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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Cecil DeBald March 11, 2018 at 9:35 am

Well, I don’t know if I’ll be able to find a pimento cheese sandwich, or strawberries and cream, but I can do chicken nuggets! Thanks for the response, Gary.


Gary Shelton March 11, 2018 at 9:40 am

I wish it was better, like that I had Sheppard’s Pie before Wimbledon or sushi before Super Bowls. But on the road, I’m not the healthiest eater. I usually have my meals beside the laptop unless I’m in a big group.


Bill MYERS March 10, 2018 at 9:20 am

Do you want us to answer the last question for Rick? As fans we all have an opinion on this one I’m sure. If so…. well I think the Glazers should sell the Bucs to someone willing to get the best talent available to get us a winning season at least! The Glazers have demonstrated their commitment to winning by taking the “lazy” way out in their choice of keeping a losing coaching staff and general manager! It is apparent in that the Glazers in sticking with the same bunch running this team are taking the same “strategy” as the Rays! GO BOLTS!!


Gary Shelton March 10, 2018 at 9:39 am

They spend a lot more money than the Rays. Don’t they?


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